Vindication is Sweet

One time, when Athena was but an adorable infant, she and I were outside playing and I looked up and saw a great big eagle circling overhead. And then I looked back down at my winsome baby girl, looked up at the eagle again, picked up my child and went inside. Because, yes, maybe it was insane to be paranoid about a circling eagle. But on the other hand, I’d rather be paranoid than have to try to get “an eagle took our baby” past her mother.

Well, people: Was I really that paranoid? Perhaps not!

Look to the skies, people. Look to the skies.

69 thoughts on “Vindication is Sweet

  1. I think the phrase “alarmist nonsense” is the keeper from that article. I of course suspect you think so as well. Now, the day they reintroduce rocs to the neighborhood, well, then I’d probably hide the boys. Unless they were bothering me. Which is once or twice a day.

  2. Oh, man, that would be such a horrible, terrifying, … ::fucking heavy-metal awesome:: … unimaginably gut-churning thing to have happen.

    This is also why toddlers need to be given swords as early as possible.

  3. I like “eagle seen perched in general vicinity of dead goose” = “eagle killed goose” = “eagle attacked goose’s owner” (who wasn’t even present at the time of the goose’s demise.

  4. This is from a country where “The Eagle and Child” is a common pub name, with a sign which shows a baby being carried off by an eagle. Seems prefectly reasonable to expect them to start it again now we’re starting to let them breed…

  5. “Will these very large creatures differentiate between a small child and more natural quarry?”

    I think they’d be unlikely to hunt small children … especially if we keep them well-supplied with their natural quarry, like geese and elderly clergymen.

  6. Lila @ 4: The article seems to reference earlier and probably more complete reports. The end of the article implies that the clergyman had “cornered” the eagle. A “bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 8ft” would presumably have rather impressive beak and talons as well, and thus be capable of doing a fair amount of damage if it was so inclined.

    Ah, here’s a somewhat more complete (and less hysterical) article:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8718155/Sea-eagle-attacks-reverend-and-his-flock….of-geese.html

    Evidently the Reverend is one of those folks who think all God’s creatures great and small are wonderful, as long as they are kept far away from his prize geese.

  7. If a Sea Eagle shows up in the middle of Ohio I think there could be all kinds of reasons to be concerned. But until then you would have to be sort of science fiction nut to think……well, okay, never mind…….

  8. I was going to link to a video, but you can just search for “eagle attacks” in youtube to see what they’re capable of. I’ve been very close to a wild golden eagle, their talons are about the size of adult human fingers.

    Yeah, they’ll eat your baby.

  9. Yeaaah, if a golden eagle can take down a goat or a deer, I don’t see a sea eagle (slightly larger) having difficulty with a toddler.

  10. “Game keepers in Scotland have raised concerns that sea eagles could mistakenly target small children when hunting their natural quarry.”

    It’s the mistakenly that makes me giggle, every time.

  11. Back to your original question, “was I really that paranoid”

    Is it really paranoia when they actually are out to get you? If so, does the label really matter?

  12. @Derryl – I’m sure no one would be so irresponsible as to re-introduce the roc without making sure there was a plentiful supply of its natural prey, Loxodonta Africana.

    @Lila – unfortunately, that article left out the “eagle attacked another goose”=”goose’s owner tried to shoo away eagle with brolly or possibly stiff upper lip” between “eagle killed goose” = “eagle attacked goose’s owner”. I’m also amused by the side comment in the other article that the RSPB had paid for protective netting for the vicar’s goose pen after an earlier incident; yet as the RSPB spokesman noted, “for whatever reason, these measures were no longer present.” I’m imagining a very dry tone to that last.

  13. And it wasn’t just an ordinary Reverend – it (allegedly) attacked a Very Reverend.

    It was probably an atheist Sea Eagle – it showed no respect for a man of the cloth (or his goose).

  14. I understand from reliable sources that eagles really have a thing for carrying off tortoises. Do Engkusg children resemble tortoises?

  15. And from the second article…

    “It is worth noting that when this first happened with Mr Farquharson in 2008 we visited his property and afterwards paid for the installation of heavy nylon netting affixed to fence posts driven into the ground so that the poultry pen and all Mr Farquharson’s birds were safe from predation.

    “When we visited again on Friday it was apparent that, for whatever reason, these measures were no longer present.”

  16. Nothing at all wrong with a little justifiable paranoia. And yeah, her mom would not have been amused. Although the one you saw probably didn’t have an 8-ft wingspan. Dang, that’s a big bird!

  17. What I get out of this is…..watch your children. Your baby may look cute rolling around in the grass right up till the Eagle swoops down.

  18. When I was little, I was bitten by a bat and had to get rabies shots. That is a pretty cool story.

    I think you robbed your daughter of her chance at a much cooler story…

  19. I saw a golden eagle swoop out of a tree at an infant left unattended on a blanket in the park. It must have changed its mind in flight, but it came within 10 feet of the baby.

  20. CBC’s As It Happens had about five minutes of interview with the Reverend on Friday (starting about 40 minutes in). There’s not really much question as to whether the eagle or eagles were attacking his geese; they were. And the geese are big: 11 kilos, in one case. On the other hand, the claim that the bird attacked him is a bit weak; that looks more like self-defense.

    Aat the end of the interview the Reverend gives the impression that the RSPB had grudgingly and recently agreed to give him protective netting after this latest incident – not that they’d done so two or three years ago and he had since removed it. Indeed, the Reverend says:

    The RSPB have now agreed that they will put a protective netting over my poultry pens

    It seems to me that either the RSPB is mistaken in its belief that they installed netting there two or three years ago, or the Reverend was being, at best, very misleading in his interview with the CBC.

  21. The real danger here in the UK is the sea eagle dropping tortoises on your head to break them open. That is why we all wear bowler hats when we are outside.

  22. Paranoia is an irrational fear. You were not paranoid, John. You had a reasonable fear that a large predatory bird could snatch away an infant for a snack.

    All these years later? Send Athena out there with her hand-me-down camera to snap a few brilliant pictures of the creature when next it returns. Post them here. Oooo, maybe Athena could snap a photo of one of the cats eyeing the eagle (and about to sprint away to safety) with the eagle in the top of the frame.

  23. Giant eagle: An enormous bird-like monster that nests in the high mountains. Its hunt can range over the entire known world and it will kill anything it can carry back to its perch.
    Extract from df.magmawiki

  24. Some of our neighbors raise chickens (among other things), and they’re wise enough to take reasonable precautions, such as well-anchored fencing and net roofing on the pens. The fact that we all regularly hear a pack of coyotes singing together, and hear owls, and see hawks and so on makes such precautions self-evidently necessary to those able to recognize obvious clues. (Wolves and fishers are rarer but not unknown. The occasional reports of mountain lion sightings have never been confirmed by physical evidence, but aren’t impossible.)

    People here are sympathetic when livestock is lost to wildlife, or outdoor cats disappear, or bird feeders are lost to black bears, but I think on the whole people around here are *happy* to live in an area that hasn’t been totally tamed. I sure as hell am, and it’s part of why I joined the town’s open space committee.

  25. Listen up folks. I’m only going to say this once. I am a fucking sea eagle. My range is the entire fucking United States of America. (Except for Hawaii. For now.)

    I know you took me off the endangered species list and that means that you can fight me off to save your children. Seriously, before I could steal your baby and there would be nothing you could do about it. But now I consider it a fair fight, so you are warned. Taking me off the endangered species list was a big mistake. Big mistake.

    – The Bald Eagle

  26. Good grief, what crap. I suspect this is politically motivated nonsense started by people who resent protecting any form of wildlife.

    OTOH, even if an eagle really couldn’t possibly carry off a child (as I believe), if it attacked one the damage could be serious.

  27. @ lilacsigil
    That doesn’t count! That’s from Australia, there is nothing on that continent that will not Fuck You Up! You know why the British introduced sheep to Australia? They were tired of being on the bottom rung of the food ladder.

  28. Which do I disprefer most, flying ferrets ( http://xkcd.com/20/ ) or eagle winged dingoes
    ( http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/09/04/vindication-is-sweet/#comment-272887 ).
    :p
    (I’ve heard that when a pet ferret starts munching on a human baby the baby doesn’t
    cry because of how sharp the ferret’s teeth are (I’ve also heard that one simply mustn’t
    have cats in the same house as a human baby because the cat will smother the baby
    by trying to lick the milk off of the baby’s mouth* (I’ve heard lotsa things))).

    I’m trying to figure out which type of sea eagle because:

    Most critters don’t want trouble from their food, which is why cows stay away from the
    vampire types of grass and your average bird won’t approach something that weighs
    near as much it does unless he/she is really handsome/pretty. ( Or has a nice house. )

    To make up some things about that article it seems to me that people who released these
    birds didn’t train them==similar to why Elsa the Lioness in Born Free by Joy Adamson died
    young: Poor big kitty didn’t understand the difference between an ape with a gun and
    a lioness with just claws and teeth. (IIRC, Elsa the lioness was killed by a water buffalo.)

    *Which explains why cats are extinct: Momma cat smells Oh, I should go away now.

  29. every summer, back on the farm I grew up on, we would see golden eagle every summer. I felt like Fog when he met the diva for the first time…

    b… b… big

  30. When I was four, I was in a wading pool in my front yard and was watching clouds, looking for shapes. The shape of a lion emerged, quickly and clearly, and I went in promptly. It was obviously coming for me.

    I’m still here, Athena is still here…just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you…

  31. Oh , that’s what I forgot to specify in what I was making up.
    Probably a young male eagle that doesn’t know what ladies of its species look like.
    Hey baby, I have big wings….

  32. My husband laughed when I shooed our 20lb cat inside the boat whenever I spotted bald eagles on one of our sailing trips.

    He stopped laughing when we ran into a couple with a similar boat, and two similar large cats, who spoke of the time they found an eagle on their aft deck going for their cat.

    Vindication indeed.

  33. I had heard that they would go for a small cat, but a human baby? There must be better, easier prey. We have a big controversy going on in my neighborhood about coyotes and to not leave your children unattended at all or even let them outside. What? I know they can scale six foot fences, but still, easier prey out there. I don’t even want to think about it. Never seen a golden eagle at all out West.

  34. “If a Sea Eagle shows up in the middle of Ohio I think there could be all kinds of reasons to be concerned.”

    The Bald Eagle is a type of sea eagle and fills the same ecological niche in North America that the White-tailed Eagle aka Sea Eagle fills in Eurasia.

    What I find most implausible is “the Very Rev Hunter Farquharson”. You expect me to believe that’s a real name?

  35. I also hear that Dingoes are always hungry. Of course, in your favor they don’t fly and they’re many thousands of miles away. But let’s be careful out there, right?

  36. #43. Never seen an Eagle out west. I was in trout derby first weekend of May couple years back at Bass Lake above Fresno, and damned if a Eagle didn’t swoop down and catch a trout. It was the most awesome thing of nature I have ever seen. They are in all the foothills in California during the winter. They like to eat dead things, but will pick off small game. Babies lying around unattended are small game. I don’t think an eagle in it’s right mind would try for one with an adult there, but they are becoming more bold since Angry Birds.

  37. I’ve always wondered if Haast’s Eagles ever attacked Maori children. The smaller species of moa were bipeds of the same size.

  38. So, where does this leave the stories of seagulls grabbing toy poodles (or was it chihuahuas?)

    Not that that in itself is a *bad* thing necessarily…. ;)

  39. The “Eagle and Child” pub name is probably a reference to the Rape of Ganymede.

    Whether or not the Rape of Ganymede is a reference to something that actually happened is a matter for the jury, m’lud.

  40. The “Eagle and Child” pub name is probably a reference to the Rape of Ganymede.

    Actually, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ourpage/stanleycrest.htm

    Many legends exist about the origin of the eagle and child crest of the Stanleys which was probably taken from the crest of the Lathoms. One account tells of a Sir Thomas Lathom who greatly desired a male heir, but his wife was advanced in years and their only child was a daughter. One day, he and his wife were walking in Tarlescough Woods, a wild section of his estate when they heard an infant crying. Servants were sent to investigate and they returned with a young male child which they had found lying in the grass below an eagle’s eyre. In another version, it was discovered in an eagle’s nest. The child was well dressed, and Sir Thomas and his wife decided to bring it up as their own son, naming him ‘Oskatel’.

    The tradition of a child being found unharmed in an eagle’s nest is very old and exists in folklore in many parts of Europe, notably in Norway and France. King Pepin was said to have discovered a child in similar circumstances, and another tale exists that King Alfred the Great found a child after hearing it crying while he was out hunting. When his servants investigated, they discovered a male child in an eagle’s eyre, dressed in purple with gold bracelets on its arms (the mark of Saxon nobility). The King named it ‘Nestingium’ and had it baptized and educated. It has been suggested that these old tales gave Sir Thomas Lathom the idea in the first place, when despairing of a son by his wife, he is said to have had an intrigue with a young gentlewoman whom he kept in a house nearby. She gave him a son, and his problem was to get it recognized and accepted by his wife in such a way that her mind would be free of jealousy. He thereupon arranged the whole thing, and the child was brought up as her adopted son and made heir to part of his estate

  41. It’s difficult to say which story is less credible, “OMG eagle snatched our child” or “look at this totally random baby I have come home with, dear, I found him in an eagle’s nest. As you do.”

  42. John, this page from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management suggests that your parental instincts are sound.

    Sample quote: “Eagles seize small lambs and kids anywhere on the head, neck, or body, frequently grasping from the front or side. They usually kill adult animals, or lambs and kids weighing 25 pounds (11 kg) or more, by multiple talon stabs into the upper ribs and back. Their feet and talons are well adapted to closing around the backbone, with the talons puncturing large internal arteries, frequently the aorta in front of the kidneys. The major cause of death is shock produced by massive internal hemorrhage from punctured arteries or collapse of the lungs when the rib cage is punctured.”

    Warning: the sentence after the quoted abstract is not for the faint of heart.

  43. Bald eagles are very common now around my parents’ home in Colonial Beach, Virginia. I’m accustomed, from my childhood just after the DDT era, to thinking of them as being almost impossible to find outside of US Federal symbology, and it’s strange seeing them about in the wild every day.

    I think they stick to fish most of the time.

  44. Just because there are no publicized or recorded incidents of an infant being seized before, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen! I don’t think you were paranoid at all – the preferred food might be fish, but I’m sure even eagles like a little variety in their diets.

  45. If I may play party popper for a moment… As was stated previously, it’s paranoid if the fear is irrational. A fear is irrational if the event in question is highly unlikely, not whether it is completely impossible. Fear of terrorism is completely irrational, even though it happens all the time around the world. The reason being that the odds of it happening to any given person are incredibly low. Here’s a nice comparison:
    http://www.nsc.org/NSC%20Picture%20Library/News/web_graphics/Injury_Facts_37.pdf
    For perspective, terrorism’s number is too small to show on chart.

    So, the question becomes, what are the actual odds of an eagle taking your child? I can’t find any data on it, which suggests it’s too small to measure. It’s the Lottery Fallacy, folks. Just because something is theoretically possible, doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to think it will happen to you.

    If you want something to worry about, car accidents are a good option.

  46. Oh, I agree entirely. Friends mocked me at the time, but none of them mocked me too hard (especially if they had children of their own). And even if they had, eh. I can live with it.

  47. Veronica @ #58, but you also have to consider, what is the downside of being too cautious? Taking the kid indoors unnecessarily is not comparable to everyone in the country having to remove shoes at the airport.

  48. Fun fact: The Taung Child (a 3 million year old specimen of Australopithecus africanus) is thought to have been killed by an eagle or some sort of bird of prey. There’s even evidence to suggest that it was picked up and moved (as in, flown) to the placed where it was killed. (http://www.macroevolution.net/taung-child.html)

    The article at the end of this paragraph also discusses the discovery of how the Taung Child was killed, but it goes into more detail. Apparently the Taung Child was probably around 26lbs (12kgs) at death. The researchers found a number of modern primates that had suffered the same fate as the Taung Child, and some of the modern specimens would have weighed over 20lbs when alive. This suggests that, while not likely, it’s still /possible/ that a human infant could be carried off by some sort of bird of prey if the conditions are right. (http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/monkbird.htm)

  49. @ SarahK vis “Elsa the lioness died of a bacterial infection.”
    Now that you remind me of that I’m absolutely certain that you are right.
    But I’m still sure it was a water buffalo. So, I’m going to have to watch all
    episodes of Bugs Bunny that have Sylvester the Cat in them just in case
    some of my memories have gotten cross circuited.
    I mean, its been a few decades. Maybe I’m remembering Sylvester and the
    Giant Mouse as Elsa versus a water buffalo.

    BTW, the just and proper action is to make _very_ sure the baby is safe:
    See, even tiny little cutie pie bats that slept under the bridge and woke up
    at dusk and ate mosquitoes are less baby safe than power cord.

  50. I lost a cat to a coyote.
    Or to something dog like and light colored.
    I opened the front door, and before I could say eek that thing
    grabbed my cat by the neck and head and vanished into the night.

  51. years ago I read a book by an English gentleman who cared for raptors. He was called upon by the government to help some third-world king by saving the life of an eagle that represented that countries monarchy. He was successful and as a reward was given one of the birds which had a wing span of over 6 feet. He kept it in his garden in England & flew it occasionally.

    He tells a story of a neighbor who would walk his hound past the yard and allowed it to harass the tethered bird. After repeated requests & finally warnings to stop letting his dog annoy the eagle the guy removed the tether one day. He said he watched as the bird took the dog off. After a couple of hours the bird came back, alone.

  52. I wasn’t going to saying anything because I don’t want to seem more like that Topper
    gentleman from Dilbert but? Hey. Readers Digest.
    I read something in Readers Digest and learned that skunks could be descented.
    And that scentless skunks make great pets.
    The story was that the neighbors dog was harassing the pet skunk.
    Skunky got loose and came back a few days later with a friend.
    Doggy said ‘woof’ and friend was like, all ‘spritz’ and all ‘How you like like woofing
    at nice pet skunks now?’

  53. A baby found – unharmed – in an eagle’s nest? Did the child float up on a cloud of fairie dust? Eagle talons would leave some serious marks in lifting said child off the ground. Somehow, I’m thinking there was maybe, I don’t know, some alcohol imbibed by the storytellers. That’s a better tie-in with a pub.

  54. There was a story in the Annapolis newspaper a few months back about an adolescent bald eagle trying to make
    off with a small dog – it might have been a poodle or a jack russell . The other small dog in the yard – which I think
    was a dachsund – barked it off. The owner came home to find the still-furious dachsund barking its fool head off
    and the other dog had puncture marks all over its ribs. There was an eagle nest nearby.

    The guy never again left his dogs out in the yard when he wasn’t home.

    I don’t blame you one tiny bit. I would not be amongst the mockers.

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